Rock Springs

Our second stop in Wyoming wasn’t nearly as exciting as the first.  We had a planned stop in Rock Springs, WY as a halfway point of sorts between Cheyenne and Salt Lake City.  Another rough travel day and we were rewarded by the biggest mud hole posing as a campground.

Blow Over Risk

We heard horror stories about I-80 and the blow overs due to the wind and were a little apprehensive about the drive across Wyoming.  Pat has now determined that the wind in Kansas was just the warm up.  Wyoming has the “real” wind with 40-50+ mph gusts.  There were overhead signs all along the way warning of blow overs and the speed limit dropped to as low as 35 at one point.  We took it super slow even though the truckers were whizzing past.  At one point we saw two of them in the ditch.  They didn’t heed the speed limit we’re guessing and we felt kinda smug.

It started out bright enough, even sunny, but then takes a turn for the worse.  My side of the windshield was iced over and the road was getting nasty, too.  Just when we were ready to bail out, the snow stopped and the road cleared up.  The wind, however, never let up.

The Mud Pit

We finally make it to Rock Springs only to find the campground a muddy mess.  It was such a quagmire that the guy in the camper next to us carried his rather large dog to the grassy dog park.  The rest of the park was gravel and brown, sticky mud.  We took off our shoes as is our normal custom, put down towels for Jackson, wiped his feet, and still managed to get mud on everything.  Mud on the floor, mud on the couch, mud on the couch pillows.  And the relentless wind blew the mud on our pants – up to our thighs!  If we hadn’t had reservations here, I think we would have mushed on.

Lonely Beauty

We did find that the area lived up to Pat’s mom’s assessment.  She told us it had a lonely beauty and I’d have to agree.  The hills were layers of colors, but craggy with very little vegetation.  And different faces depending on the weather, which remained mostly icky.

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View from our campsite of the misty, moisty hills.

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The next day we took a walk and enjoyed a little sunlight and the stark beauty.  Some of the nasty mud did dry up.  This picture is the hands-down favorite for this stop.

Top picture is looking back towards the highway with the snow capped hills and train in the background.  Pat and Jackson start climbing and of course I had to take a picture of the delicate flowers that managed to hang on to the craggy soil.  I was delighted by the Jack Rabbits, but they were too quick for photos.  They had really tall ears and big pom pom tails.  Just goes to show you that even the nastiest spots have something interesting to offer.

Re-routing

We took the day of downtime in the goop to do some chores.  I needed to get some graduation cards in the mail and Pat worked on paying the bills and recording receipts.  We also needed to seriously think about the next part of the trip since we only had one more reservation in Salt Lake City.  With the continued snowy, cold weather, we decided to look at a different path.  Surprisingly farther North was faring better than our current latitude.  So, we’re going to try to go West and North a bit quicker.  Montana is out and Oregon is in!  We have tentative spots picked out – two in Idaho, one in Oregon and two in Washington, but we’re going to see how it goes.  You’ll know where when we do.

Hey, another bit of good news.  We bought a pizza in the campground store and baked it in the convection oven.  Our first pizza and it turned out great!  A nice little treat while we watched it rain, snow, and sleet.

Next up is Salt Lake City and the drive over the mountains.  And ground squirrels!  Can’t wait to tell you about them.  See you on the way.

 

Cheyenne

Another action-packed family visit and another state to add to our list.  The stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming was all we hoped it would be with lots of quality time with Pat’s mom, brother Jamie, and nephew Tyler.  Tons of fun with some wild weather thrown in for good measure.

Pet the Bison

I texted my mother-in-law prior to our arrival and said I wanted to pet a bison.  She could arrange that right?  Truly I was kidding about the petting part, but I have to give her total credit.  She came through in a big way.  Since rain, snow and other assorted ick was forecast for later in the visit, we decided to head out to Terry Bison Ranch on our first full day in Cheyenne.  Oh man, we had some fun.

We bought tickets for the train ride to go out to the bison pasture, but while we waited, we amused ourselves in the gift shop.  I “rode” the bison just in case that was as close as I could get.  Mom took her turn on the Jackalope, but Pat wins the prize for the biggest ham of the afternoon.

The ranch has a long and interesting history along with some incredible views that just embody what I think of when I picture Wyoming.  Except camels.  I don’t think of camels, but they have them, too.

As for the ranch, the first territorial governor of Wyoming bought it in 1885 and raised sheep and cattle.  President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the ranch twice during his Cheyenne visits, in 1903 and 1910.  Raising bison entered the scene in 1993 and the owner wanted the public to be able to “get up close and personal to the Great North American Bison” according to their website.

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You don’t get more up close and personal than feeding, petting and even smelling some foul bison breath.  My wish was granted!  Just so you know, the bison have long tapered gray tongues that slime your hands pretty well.  And they love the alfalfa pellets that look like giant-sized rabbit food.

These bison are the pregnant females and we though for a while we might see one being born.  False alarm for mom, however.  We learned from our excellent tour guide that these gals weigh over 2000 pounds, can run up to 40 miles per hour, and can hop a 6 foot fence from a standstill.  Unbelievable statistics for such a large beast.

After the pasture tour, we checked out the rest of the animals on site which include – surprise – Clydesdales.

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I got a huge kick out of the alpacas.

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Check out the teeth!

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How does he see?

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Very deep thoughts

On the way over to the animal pens, my long lost cat came running.

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Seriously, this cat made a beeline across the parking lot right over to me.  I scooped it up and it just purred and purred.  This scruffy little barn cat knew I was missing some kitty love.

Wicked Wyoming Weather

When we arrived at the campground in Cheyenne, they told us that snow was forecast in two days.  Yeah right.  I am in total denial.  Well that doesn’t stop the snow.  This trip is all about walking the fine weather line and looks like we crossed over it on this stop.  It did indeed snow and all day long, too.

It truly looked like a Christmas postcard.  The snow was heavy, wet, messy and delightful to Jackson.  His first romp in the stuff.  It was lovely to look at, but we were just as glad for it to melt away the next day.

Prom & Bowling

The great thing about hanging around on our family stops for a week is that we get to participate in whatever is going on.  This time it meant helping with corsage consultations, giving an eye shadow opinion (to the girlfriend, of course) and pulling out my camera for a prom photo shoot.  Pat’s nephew Tyler had a very busy week when we arrived, culminating in that magical prom night.  It was so much fun to be part of the excitement.

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Tyler and Trinity gave their approval for me to share a shot from the evening.  Stunning couple and such sweet kids!  Plus, since I have a son and no daughter, I loved all the talk of hair, nails and eye shadow.

Of course us oldies but goodies had to do something that night, so we went bowling.  It was Jamie’s great idea.  Bowling is one of those perfect social activities.  Just enough work hefting the bowling ball every so often, sandwiched between plenty of talk and heckle time with the rest of the group.  It helps if no one is any good, which we weren’t.

Mom, Pat and Jamie do their worst.  Since I’m taking the pictures, there is no shot of my behind.  And for those of you with inquiring minds, I bowled three strikes in a row in the last two frames of the first game to pull out a win.  Couldn’t do that again if I tried.  Pat won game two by a landslide.

Just Hanging Out

The rest of time consisted of just regular everyday activities with family we hadn’t seen in oh so long.  And I have to say, that is really what it’s all about.  Mom made meatloaf and it was delicious.  Our second meatloaf score on this trip, and this one tasted like my mom’s!  Actually Mom cooked for us constantly and it was nice to have the home-cooked meals.  I also managed to do 8 loads of laundry.  Not all at the same time, of course, since we don’t have that many clothes.  So nice to have all clean clothes, sheets, towels AND dog bedding.  Plus no quarters required!

We played quite a few games of Yahtzee, which is one of my favorites.  The dice were not rolling my way, and Pat managed to roll Yahtzee twice in the same game.  And you know you are in trouble when you accuse your mother-in-law of cheating.  Well let’s just say creative score-keeping.  Jackson also enjoyed this visit since he was able to go to Grandma’s every single day and walk in her neighborhood.  And she had Milk Bones.  And she fed him a whole slice of that delicious meatloaf before I could stop her.

So Long, Farewell, & Thunder Snow

It was our last night in Cheyenne, so we took a round of family shots.  In the past we used to hold up a paper plate if someone was missing.  This time Mom didn’t have any paper plates so she whipped out a coffee filter for Jamie who was taking a nap.  Fortunately he did wake up to take the place of the filter.

Those pictures before everyone is ready are just the best.  Pat, Mom, Jamie, Tyler & Trinity.  Pretty good looking group.

So all the hugs and good-bys are done and we’re back at the campground.  Cheyenne has one more weather whammy for us.  It rains and sleets and finally snows.  But what gets me out of bed in the middle of the night is the thunder!  I’d heard of thunder snow before, but never experienced it.  Jackson needs a happy pill it is so loud.

We laughed so much during this week and we hate to go, but Alaska still calls.  I have one more stop in Wyoming up next.  See you on the way!

Rocky Mountain High

I know that title sounds like a cliche, but it’s such an apt description of Colorado, particularly the Denver area.  We traded farmland views for the beautiful Rockies.  And my dad loved John Denver, so there you go.

Colorado – Epic Journey State #6

Yes, we’re clicking off the states now and they’ll come fast and furious from here on out.  By this time next month we’ll be out of the country!  As for Colorado, we made a stop at the welcome station and then an overnight stop in Seibert, CO at Shady Grove Campground.  A small, but friendly little place that was just right for a rest before pushing into greater Denver.

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Cherry Creek State Park

This almost week-long stay isn’t about sight-seeing, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you the sights from this fantastic state park.  We had a view of the Rockies right from our campsite even though we’re right smack in the middle of Aurora, CO.  Turns out it is a pretty big burb for Denver.  Wind your way a mile or so out of the park and bam!  You come face to face with a subdivision, McDonald’s, gas stations, etc.  If you don’t listen too hard for road noise, you’d think you were truly in the middle of nowhere.

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View from the campsite – zoomed in a bit, but spectacular!

Here are a few more views I thought were also pretty good.

Of course the most amazing part of this park is the fact that the wildlife is plentiful, even with all the traffic and human chaos so close by.  We came back to the motorhome after dark the first night to find a group of deer feeding right by the door.  They had even turned on the motion-activated porch light.  Weren’t the least bit afraid of us or even Jackson.  They strolled through the park regularly day and night.

We spied an interesting bird the first day.  One I had never seen before.  I called it my zebra bird.  Turns out they are Magpies and they do live up to the name.  Chatter, chatter, chatter all day and they seem to be very busy and nosy.

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Not the best shot, but all they would cooperate for during their busy-ness.  These birds have a really long tail and it looks almost green in the sunlight.

Easter With Pat’s Family

We normally spend Easter with my cousins and extended family in Florida.  Although I missed seeing them, it was great to spend the holiday with Pat’s family for a change.  Pat’s brother Dean, sister-in-law Terri and niece Rachel hosted us for Easter dinner.  His mom even drove down from Cheyenne to join in.  Nephew Brandon came over, too.  We had a scrumptious ham dinner with all the trimmings plus pie and ice cream.  Jackson was even invited over so he wouldn’t have to be alone all day at the motorhome.  He really enjoyed a fenced yard and lots of attention.  Our apologies to their cats who were relegated to the basement for the day since Jackson is a perfect gentleman with people, but not cats.

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The “boys” talk it up in the yard.  Jackson is passed out after taking all the stuffing out of his new Easter chicken.

The ladies chat on the porch.  I think a good time was had by all and it was nice to just sit and relax with the family.  We love all the adventures and sight-seeing we’re doing, but visiting the family on their home turf while sleeping in our own bed is awesome.

More Family Fun

Before Easter, we were able to join Dean, Terri, Rachel and Brandon at a fund-raiser dinner at Rachel’s school.  We were even lucky enough to be here for one of Rachel’s lacrosse games.  We had fond memories of watching Ethan play lacrosse and really enjoyed watching our first ladies lacrosse game.  They are tigers, but can’t whack each other with the sticks like the boys do.  Thank goodness.  Even so, during the game prior to Rachel’s, there was a tumble and one gal broke her leg.

We enjoyed lunch together after the game and got done in time to meet Pat’s mom and pick up our mountain of Amazon packages.  We went on another ordering binge and had them shipped to her house.  She hauled them all down for us since I begged.  Looking for that part to fix the shower!

Queen of Peace

Pat and I opted for the Easter vigil mass this year and it was a lovely service at Queen of Peace Catholic Church.  I have to mention it since it was quite an experience.  It lasted almost 3 hours, but that wasn’t the most noteworthy part.  We got there early and had great seats, but got up like most people to watch the candle-lighting outside and process in with our candles.  Our seats along with every other visible seat were taken when we got back in.  I admit, I was annoyed, but we stood at the back wall behind the back pews to make the best of it.  Into the first few readings, a gentleman in a pew directly in front of us had some kind of medical emergency.  His family member looked us right in the eyes and said she needed help.  I pulled out my phone, dialed 911, gave the church address, and then handed it over to her.  After the paramedics arrived, she returned the phone, I gave her a hug and Pat says “now we know why we lost our seats”.  Made me cry, but it was exactly what I was thinking.

Lunch With Brandon

Denver was a great stop since we got to visit with multiple family members.  Brandon is Pat’s oldest nephew and son of his sister Dee, who we saw in Springfield.  He’s lived all over the place and is well connected.  We had lunch with him after all the Easter hubbub was over.  Turns out he knows the manager and got the food portion comped.  He and Pat talk computers, finances, movies, books, you name it.  There’s never a lull in the conversation.

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Here we are saying our good-bys.  Good selfie, huh!  Brandon took it of course.

Chores

Always chores and this stop was no exception.  We had a few “developments” during this stop to report.  Actually the first one occurred in Seibert.  The AC completely froze up and wouldn’t cool.  Pat had to get out my hair dryer to thaw it all out.  He thought he knew what caused it, so he implemented his “fix” and we were keeping and eye on it in Denver.  Happy to report that the AC is working just fine, so no worries there.  I know you wouldn’t think that’s a big deal, but our coach is dark colored and heats up quickly in the sun even if the outdoor temp is cool.  We have to make sure the indoor temp stays cool for Jackson when we are away, so this is very important.  Whew!  At least we don’t need a new AC unit.  I’m sure those are cheap….

Then chromebook #2 did not awaken after I made the last post.  Dead as a doornail.  So off we go to Best Buy for another one.  Actually two Best Buys to find the same one again.  I say #2 since our first chromebook got crunched in the RV slideout during one of our first trips in Lucy.  We decided it was a good thing in disguise since we liked the new one so much better.  So join me in welcoming chromebook #3 to the blogging world.

We also spent some quality time in line at Petco to get two vaccines for Jackson.  He’ll be overdue by the time we get to Canada, so we needed to get them updated to make sure we can enter the country.  They are fussy about that.

Speaking of Alaska, we were advised that quality rain gear is a must if we’re spending any time at all there.  We are guaranteed rainy, icky weather at some point, and we don’t want that dampening our sightseeing experiences, literally!  So, off we go to a local sporting goods store and now we both have waterproof jackets and pants.

And the update you’ve all been waiting for.  Two words – HOT WATER!  Yes friends, Pat was able to replace the shower faucet apparatus and we now have water so hot I actually had to turn it down this morning.  Halleluia!  The full-timing lifestyle is saved and I can shower without my teeth chattering.

That about wraps it up for Denver.  We’re bugging out in the am and headed for Wyoming to spend a week with Pat’s mom, brother Jamie and nephew Tyler.  See you on the way!

 

 

 

Dorothy, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!

But we were, and managed to visit the third big thing we wanted to do on the way to Alaska.  In fact it’s one of Eight Wonders of Kansas.  But first things first – getting to and driving in Kansas.

Holding It In The Road

To get into and across Kansas, we had two and a half tough driving days.  Truly you had to have both hands on the wheel and brace yourself for gusts over 30 mph.  The day I took a turn was on a two-lane road meeting semis.  Those two things together made for a tense drive.  The gusts were so bad that the windshield wiper blade kept getting blown out of the track.

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So what do you do if there is incessant, maddening wind all day long?  Harness it with giant windmills.  These suckers are huge and apparently one of them can power over 300 households for an entire year.  We considered flying our kite, but think it was TOO windy.

Biggest Little City

For our Wonder of Kansas stop, we stayed at a campground in Halstead.  A sleepy little Kansas town for sure with ‘no J-turn’ signs in the downtown area.  Of course U-turns are allowed right in the middle of some of those same intersections.  We even found a restaurant that specializes in Sloppy Joes.  Twisted Joe’s had at least 6 different kinds and the regular original sandwich was delicious.

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Halstead with it’s grain elevator, railroad tracks and sign boasting “The Biggest Little City in Kansas”.  Friendly people and a beautiful Catholic church, too, just right for Palm Sunday.

Frog Scaring

The campground was an odd mix of sites and people.  We never really met anyone here, but it was so darn windy.  We didn’t do a lot of social sitting if you know what I mean.  The dog walks must go on, however, so we did explore around the campground.  There was a huge dog park for ball chasing, but my favorite past times were blowing what dandelions were left and chasing the frogs.  There were several ponds and the frogs were singing quite loudly.  If you walked close to the edge of the pond, they started jumping in.  Little ones, medium sized ones, and whoa buddy big daddies!  Jackson even did a little frog scaring himself.

DSC00247This guy was just under the edge of the RV, so I managed to sidle up for a few pictures.  He’s giving me the evil eye though.  I swear, some of them were as big as salad plates.

A few shots from our Kansas-style “hikes”.  Walking down farm roads and admiring the young crops.

I believe this is baby wheat although the only crops I can truly identify are corn & cotton and only when corn & cotton are visible.  Otherwise, we just use generic “crops” for any other green fields.

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The geese on the campground pond made for a nice shot.  Not sure what to make of the gnome collection in the Cypress knees.  Unique for sure.

Strataca Salt Mine

You guessed it – Strataca Salt Mine is one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas and our destination for this stop.  We read about this and just had to come for a tour.  650 feet below the surface and still an active salt mine.

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I tried to get Pat to agree to the special, extra charge, Safari tour.  That one goes behind the scenes further into the mine and you get more free salt chunks.  Nah, we don’t need that he says.  But when we get there and the ticket lady suggests it, we’re all in and get special yellow hard hats.  So we do the train ride, dark ride AND safari – a total of three hours down in the mine!  We had the 3:30 tour booked and Pat is pretty excited.  Behind him is the “hoist” that took us down, down, down.  They turn out the lights at one point and if your eyes are open or closed, it is exactly the same.  Pitch black, total darkness, not one photon of light!  The hoist is the only place that claustrophobics would have trouble, since it is very open in the mine itself due to the thick stratum of salt.

Here I am with a giant salt chunk.  Also an old truck from the 50s.  What goes down in the mine stays down apparently.  Well, except for the people.  Also, the conditions are a constant 60 degrees and completely dry due to the salt sucking the moisture out of the air.  For those reasons, they use the mine for storage.  Official copies of all your favorite movies are down here along with lots of other important documents.  My attempt at a shot with Pat looking out into the mine, and he takes a turn at the pick ax.  Well, not really.  It was bolted to the wall.

Apparently, the mining operations are very similar to that of coal mining since coal and salt are both soft materials and don’t require water to cool the drill bits.  I’m sure we’ll never have the opportunity to tour an active mine again and totally confident we wouldn’t be going down into a coal mine.  Those are much more closed in with low ceilings, and also not the best air quality I’m guessing.  The other guests had white hard hats and asked if we were the canaries with our yellow ones.

Finally, my favorite picture of the day from the ladies’ room…

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When they put in the bathrooms for us tourists, they utilized the mine walls.  The texture and salt veins were beautiful.  I told the tour guy this would be the first bathroom shot for my blog.  I won’t say the last since you just never know.  This mine produces solely road salt and we were told “no licking”!

At the beginning of the tour, they had lots of quotes on the wall pertaining to salt.  Everything from the Bible to famous contemporary people.  My favorite –

“Let there be such oneness between us, that when one cries, the other tastes salt.”                -Anonymous

That I-70s Show

Next stop, WaKeeney, Kansas at the KOA right off I-70.

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We’re breaking up the Kansas drive in weenie chunks and stopped here for 2 nights for laundry, coach maintenance, and crafting.  I made 19 cards.  Notice the semi and green sign in the background.  That is I-70 – right there!  We called it “That I-70s Show”.  Not a lot going for this place except easy on, easy off the highway.  But we were rewarded the first night.

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The full moon rose right outside the dash window.  Pat said the big expansive sky reminded him of his childhood in North Dakota.  No pesky trees, tall buildings or anything else for that matter to get in the way of that huge sky.

One Complaint & A Little Ingenuity

So, we’ve been at this full-time RV thing for three and a half months.  We are still loving it and that is the good news.  We’re still learning, and sometimes the hard way, but getting into a nice routine for set-up, bug-out and a mix of relaxing and touring days.  Our one complaint is the shower temp.  One word for you – cold!  I am a hot-as-you-can-stand-it gal, so less than impressed with lukewarm and even cold showers.  We bought some insulation at one stop and Pat did a good job of making it better, but still not good.  I steel myself for the invigoration every morning and no amount of mind games makes it feel warm.  Anyway, we think we’ve identified the problem and have a new shower faucet on order.  Hopefully it is already in Cheyenne waiting for us at that stop.

Also, the moving and grooving in the RV jostles everything around.  We have things strategically stowed to minimize the chaos, but you do have to watch it when you open any of the cabinet drawers after a drive.  Things definitely have shifted in flight.  We did come up with one ingenious idea though.

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Pat cut up a swim noodle so we can keep all the things in the fridge from shifting all about.  You still have to open carefully that first time, but it really helps.

The Family Furby

Last but not least, Pat’s family has a Furby that travels.  His name is Poop, and he gets passed between the siblings for travel photo ops.  He was last with us for Ethan’s high school graduation and Bahamas cruise in 2012.  We picked up Poop from Pat’s sister Dee when we were in Springfield, and will be taking him to Alaska.

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For now, he’s sleeping on the dash as we roll.  He wasn’t too impressed with Kansas.  I, on the other hand, appreciate that this part of the country feeds the world.  There may not be mountains, forests and lakes, but there are those amber waves of grain.  A different kind of beauty.

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Here’s my shot from the passenger window that says Kansas to me.  Two-toned fields, rail cars, towering grain silos and endless blue sky.

And that’s the way it was in Kansas!  We’re now at the feet of the Rockies and ready to enjoy some more family time with Pat’s brother and family, two nephews and his mom.  There might be a lag before the next post, but I’ll catch you up eventually.  See you on the way!

Baby Clydesdales

Warm Springs Ranch in Boonville, Missouri was the goal for this stop.  It was one of three things we wanted to make sure and do on the way to Alaska, besides the family stops of course.  Determined to see the Clydesdales, and baby ones at that, we booked this tour and purchased tickets last September.  They sell out fast and the guide says every tour is fully booked.

Knob Noster State Park

I’ll give you some insight into the planning for this stop.  Warm Springs Ranch was out of the way for our track West and we didn’t want to drive Lucy all the way there and then back track.  Instead, we settled upon a state park a little over an hour away and figured Bitsy could make the day trip.  So that’s how we happened upon a place called Knob Noster.  This is a very nice Missouri state park and the only one we’ll get this trip.  A little cold (in the 30s again at night) and a little wet from 14 days straight of rain, but peaceful nonetheless.  We stuck to the road on our hikes for the most part to avoid all the mud.

A nice set of stepping stones to get to the top of the dam.  Also, a warning sign us Floridians absolutely never see – “ice not checked for thickness”.  Good to know.  Of course our goal is to never be anywhere with frozen bodies of water.  Ok, well maybe just the glaciers, but that doesn’t really count.

According to the city of Knob Noster’s official website, the name comes from knob, meaning “the hills”, and noster which is the Latin derivation of our.  Thus Knob Noster for “our hills”.  Cute little town with just over 2,000 residents and home to a surprising Thai restaurant find.

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This place was highly rated on Google for Thai cuisine.  We drove up and weren’t sure we should venture in.  We found an older lady seated at what looked like a regular office desk and another little old lady in the back cooking madly.  That was it and the wait was over 45 minutes for take out.  That didn’t work for lunch, but the smells so enticed us that we ordered our dinner here after the Clydesdale tour.  Pretty good Asian cooking for nowhere Missouri, made to order.

Warm Springs Ranch

To the main event!  Of course we had to drive about an hour and 15 minutes to the ranch and opted for the road less traveled.  This put us on small winding farm roads.  You know the ones with the yellow squiggly road signs.  A great view of fields, farms and huge farm implements.

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And the money shot!  Warm Springs Ranch

Actually we knew we were almost there when we rounded a turn and – gasp – a Clydesdale grazing in the pasture ahead!  Absolutely beautiful.  And you know it’s a Clydesdale by the size and those lovely feet.

This is a grand setting for totally pampered horses with over 14 miles of white fencing.  Warm Spring Ranch in Boonville, MO is one of the Budweiser ranches, but the only one that boasts breeding and training the babies.

The tour started with movie clips of the famous horses from Super Bowl commercials and other special appearances.  These included a delivery of beer to the White House after the repeal of Prohibition, Rose Bowl Parades and of course St. Louis Cardinals home games.  All of this set to the tune of the Budweiser song.  You know it and I couldn’t get it out of my head for days.  “Here comes the King, here comes the big number one!  Budweiser beer, the king, is second to none….”

It sounds crazy, but this thing had me tearing up.  I know we’re talking beer, but the Clydesdales pulling that huge wagon with the Dalmation on top is truly iconic.  I can’t think of too many things more American, more apple pie, more widely recognized.  Whether you like Bud or not, who doesn’t love the Clydesdales?  After the film, they walked us around the farm and described the breeding process and what goes into making up a team or “hitch”.

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It starts with this guy, or a few studs like him, paired with one of the mares with the best markings.  We were fortunate to tour during the prime foaling season, and yes, we saw babies!  Two, in fact, less than a month old – Jake and Sally.

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Baby Jake, born March 19th – getting a bit of lunch

Sally was laying down the whole time, so we didn’t get any pics of her.  Plus the mommas are not too keen on you getting a close look.  Mostly I saw a lot of the backside of big momma Jane protecting her baby.

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There are 3 hitches that travel the country doing appearances for over 300 days out of the year.  The hitch consists of eight Clydesdales at about 2000 lbs each, and they pull the huge wagon.  Each hitch travels with three semis – two with the horses including two alternates, and one with the gear.  The Dalmation gets to ride where he or she chooses, but they prefer to be with the horses or in the air conditioned cab if it’s hot out.  Seven handlers go along and do everything from groom and outfit the horses to drive the trucks.  The tour ended with free beers and a chance to pet one of the Clydesdales.

Me and my new friend Stan.  And the best part of the Clydesdale – the hairy feet or “feathers”.  Over 18 hands or six feet tall at the shoulder makes for one imposing horse.  Just gorgeous.  All this, and the hitches traveling around the country are completely funded by the sale of Budweiser, so drink up!

It’s Not All Glamorous

I’ve been told that I need to give equal time in the blog to the less than glamorous tasks.  So here you go.  There are a lot of things we don’t have to worry about in the motorhome compared to a sticks and bricks house, but plumbing isn’t one of them.  Regularly we have to dump the holding tanks and that’s probably the least favorite task of all.

Here’s Pat all gloved up and ready to do the honors at our full hook-up site.  I normally have the job of watching the business end and making sure the hose stays in the sewer connection.  Sometimes it requires my foot on top, sometimes not.  This is also one thing I remember from camping in the motorhome with Mom & Dad.  Mom and I never left the coach when Daddy was dumping the tanks.  We left him completely on his own with that stinky job!  Ah but we don’t dwell on it.  Just do it when needed and move on.  Not a bad price to pay for new scenery at every stop.

Two Down, One to Go

I mentioned three things we wanted to do on the way to Alaska.  The first one was the Hyundai Motor manufacturing tour in Montgomery.  Number two was Warm Springs Ranch in Missouri to see the Clydesdales.  And number three?  That one’s in Kansas and you’ll read all about it in the next post.  See you on the way!

Springfield – People, Food & Critters

Wowee!  We’ve been quite social for the past week and really enjoyed our stop in Springfield, Missouri.  Plenty of family visits, bonus time with an old friend and yes, critters.  Food goes along with the people, and I should also add noise to this stop.  Our campground was a regular planes, trains and automobiles adventure, but more on that later.

Are We Sure It’s Spring?!

Bad weather coming and going is all I can say.  We just thought the wind TO Springfield was bad until our bug-out day with 20-30 mph winds with up to 40 mph gusts.  Literally blowing us off the road and Pat looked like he was playing Mario Kart with the motorhome.  Add rain and the ominous clouds and we were glad to arrive to our next stop.  I will say that Missouri is lovely, but we have seen precious little of it in the sunshine.

Fantastic Caverns

Our big sight-seeing outing for this stop was to Fantastic Caverns.  We went with Pat’s sister Dee and her husband Kurt.  This stop provided a teensy bit of sunshine and some amazing views 120 feet below the surface.  The only way to see this place is on a guided jeep tour.  Fantastic is exactly the word!

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That first pic shows the jeep we’re riding in, second one is a magnificent formation and the 3rd one is for scale.  Check out our tour guide walking back to the jeep from the “twins” formation.  This place is truly staggering in size.  It was discovered back in 1862 by John Knox.  His hunting dog ran into the small opening and got lost.  John went in to look for the dog and realized that this was a huge place.  He kept it quiet during the Civil War so neither side could exploit it.  Since then, the large open “room” inside has been used as a speakeasy during Prohibition and was the location for weekly concerts in the 1960s.

Outside in the light of day, we took advantage of the sun peaking out and walked a short trail near the cave opening.

Kurt took our picture and then I took theirs.

The sibs have some fun.  Pat points out the lovely redbud tree and Dee attempts the big climb.  A little help please?

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How do you like our new rig?  Love the color, but it’s missing a few comforts that I must have – running water and a queen-sized bed to name a few.

Family Time

We had a great visit with Dee and Kurt who we haven’t seen in a few years.  We ate out of course, but Kurt made meatloaf for us one night.  That’s one thing we haven’t had since starting this expedition.  We also had a chance to grill out burgers on the last night and Jackson was invited over, too.  He loved having his own dog pack with their three dogs Taz, Sophie and Bo.

I tried to get the shot of all 4 of them at the fence barking at the neighbor’s dogs.  These pups don’t cooperate any better for photos than Jax.  Sophie gets her own cameo.  I called her our little chicken leg since she’s got cute spindly legs and a bit of a mohawk.

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Also a nod to Dee’s garden.  She has a Bleeding Heart plant.  So perfectly named.  I’d never seen anything like it before.  She also has rhubarb.  Pat is not a fan of the pink celery sticks, and flatly refuses to eat anything made with rhubarb.  I’ve never had it, but he’s not terribly picky, so I’m taking his scrunched up face as a sign I shouldn’t bother trying it.

It was also good that we were all over at their house the last night since there were tornado warnings and watches all over the area.  The campground looked to be in some purple spot on the radar, but their house was not so bad.  Jackson even had a couch to hide behind.

An Old Friend

Old friends are special.  They know things about your earlier years that newer friends just don’t.  Not that you couldn’t tell about earlier times, it’s just different if you were there.  Meeting up with my old high school/college buddy Cathy was a special bonus at this stop.  She saw the itinerary I posted earlier and told me she was merely a few miles from where we’d be.  So we hatched a plan and had the pleasure of meeting her husband, 3 kids, and her oldest’s girlfriend.  Pat, Dee & Kurt came along as my family band.  We had a great lunch at the Springfield Brew Company and chatted about old times.  She remembers mom and dad fondly and her dad was my high school cross-country coach.  I won’t say how long it’s been since we were freshman college roommates, but it has been 18 years since we saw each other last!

My New Moabs

We discovered the national headquarters for Bass Pro Shops here in Springfield and it is touted as the Grandaddy of them all.

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We had gift cards burning a hole in our pockets and I needed new hiking shoes.  I’m the proud owner of waterproof Merrell Moabs (Mother of all boots).  I’ll let you know how they hold up in Alaska.

More Food

Dee & Kurt also took us to a downtown institution in Springfield, Hurts Donuts.

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A really fun place with quite unique donuts.  I had a superb old-fashioned, but Pat sampled the oreo cheesecake donut and the Bart Simpson – covered in crushed Butterfingers.  Kurt had a key lime filled donut that looked like a green bulls-eye and Dee had a cheesecake donut as well.  The cereal killer donuts were covered in frosting and Captain crunch, cocoa puffs or fruit loops.  Almost spoiled our lunch!  And the funniest thing?  The restroom labels.  Ladies room – picture of a donut.  Men’s room – picture of an eclair.  I laughed and laughed.

We also sampled Andy’s custard since we were told we MUST!  Such a sacrifice for Pat to eat anything in the ice cream family.  Yum.

Pat & I also decided to try a diner on old Route 66.  Decided we needed some breakfast kicks.  We dined at Tubby’s Diner and hole in the wall doesn’t begin to describe the place.  But I will say, the portions were huge and I had the best eggs I believe I have ever had and I’m not really an egg fan.  Also, big nod to their special almond crusted french toast with raspberry drizzle.

Our other food outing was in search of a Panda Express fix for Pat.  He loves to eat there.  We googled up the closest location and found ourselves in the Missouri State Student Union.  We think we know why retirees often like to settle in college towns.  Such energy flowing from these kids!  We had a grand time eating amongst the co-eds and watching the buses come and go.

Noise, noise, noise!

I felt like the Grinch talking about Whoville on Christmas Day.  Noise, noise and more noise.  The KOA was really a superb campground with great amenities.  Super clean laundry room that I used more than once,  complete camp store with ice cream and beer.  The essentials, don’t you know.  Plus they bake pizza and deliver it right to your site.  What’s not to like?  Well, it is also right next to the train tracks.  I mean so close that you can read the graffiti on the rail cars!  Also, Springfield has a new airport.  I think we were in the flight path.  And if either of those things calmed down, I-44 was a mere few miles away with semis galore.  When new people arrived and paused at the laying on of the train horn, we just laughed.  Wait until the wee hours of the night.

But, our front window looked out on a green grassy area for tent campers.  No tent campers just now, but plenty of frolicking bunnies each morning.  Loved that with my coffee.  There was a skunk staring us down as we came back in the car one night, too.  Made us a little skittish taking Jackson out after dark for the bedtime potty break.  Fortunately never saw that critter again.

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Happy Easter my friends!

Trail-Doggin’ It

Jackson got his walks in for this stop, too.  We found an Ozark Greenway Trail close to the campground and visited several days in a row.  Great paved trail, babbling brook, and spectacular blooming redbuds.  We also learned something along the way.

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Do you know what riparian means?  I didn’t so googled it up.  According to Merriam-Webster, “Riparian came to English from the same source that gave us “river” – the Latin riparius, a noun deriving from ripa, meaning “bank” or “shore.” First appearing in English in the 19th century, “riparian” refers to things that exist alongside a river (such as riparian wetlands, habitats, trees, etc.).”  So now I know and you do, too.  We’re definitely all about NOT mowing and fully support the mitigation!

That’s it for this stop.  Next up, more Missouri and baby horses!  See you on the way.

 

Lovely Lake Charles

Arkansas turned out to be another state we’ll have to re-visit one day.  Two days is not enough time to see much.  But the campground was so pretty, we just simply didn’t want to go anywhere else.

The Scene Change

We leave the state of Mississippi for a short trip through a tiny snip of Tennessee.  The bypass around Memphis was interesting.  Apparently quite the transportation hub for goods.  Trucks, trucks and more trucks rolling to and from the rail yard.  Huge cranes lifted the cargo containers off the train and onto trucks and vice versa.  I’d only noticed these in ports before.  Saw that famous FedEx hub, too.  Seems anything you send FedEx has to go through Memphis.  I think it’s a rule.

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On the drive we also marveled at the change in the terrain.  Gone were the woodsy looking Mississippi roadsides and in their place were some pretty soggy looking fields.  Lots of farm land and we’re thinking we’re now in the Mississippi floodplains.

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Crossing the mighty Mississippi into Arkansas

Three states all before lunch!  We got an early start since I wanted to hit Memphis after rush-hour and before our lunch break.  Had to set an alarm – ugh.

Lake Charles State Park

This Lake Charles is located in Powhatan, Arkansas and you travel a windy road with little to no shoulder for about 6 miles to get there.  We met a “wide load” truck on the way there and Pat pulled off – sort of.  I’m doing deep breathing since the ditch is oh so close.  I’m not sure I’m going to make it in the Rockies if this is any indication!

Anyway, once you get there, simply paradise.  The ranger changed our site to the better one since they weren’t sure we’d fit in the original assignment.  Turns out it was the best one of the loop and after the first night, we were the only ones there.  Just like our own personal heaven right by the water.

Such nice views.  We spent a lot of time just sitting listening to the birds and looking at the lake.  It was a heavenly spot to work on the blog.  I only got up to walk over to look at the turtles and scare them into plopping back into the water.

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My friend the Aflac duck came by to visit, but snubbed the offering of fish food I had saved from another stop.  I guess that just wasn’t good enough.

 

Mr. Duck made the sunset shot, too.  In the distance during the day we had a great long view of the lake and the farm silos in the distance.

 

Walkabout & The Camp Store

Jackson and I took an early morning walk on the Butterflies and Blooms trail.  No butterflies, but plenty of blooms.  We’re on a pretty sweet travel path to see the peak blooms of the redbud and dogwood trees and have been since Alabama.  I give Mississippi credit for the best highway redbuds, but this campground has some good ones close up.

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They also have a camp store here complete with an ice cream freezer.  Yes, that pleases Pat immensely, but I’m also eager to try the lime sherbet push-ups.  They call this flavor Frog Spit.  In spite of that name, they were very tasty.  We did NOT try the flavored dried crickets.

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This is really a thing and they come in 3 flavors – sour cream & onion, sea salt & vinegar, and bacon & cheese.

The Scene Changes Again

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I hated to leave Lake Charles, but we must mush on to make our scheduled stop in Springfield, Missouri.  We set out and make a turn almost due North that takes us through this cut through the rocks.  Looks totally different than the rolling hills and farmland we just saw further South in Arkansas.  Ozarks here we come!

A bit about this picture.  I’ve told you about my remedial navigational skills.  Well, just before I took this picture we had to make a turn – to the RIGHT to go North.  Well I’m saying turn left here and Pat is saying LEFT?  Are you SURE??  I say yes, LEFT!  Well on the left is a guardrail, steep drop-off and no possible place to turn.  Oh yeah, I mean RIGHT!  The brain was thinking the right direction and the mouth was saying the opposite.  Fortunately Pat verifies in these situation since he knows I have this tendency.

It was a very windy travel day, but fortunately we missed the worst weather.  Just buffeted on the road and the drive seemed much longer than it was.  Some days are just that way, but we did make it safely to our destination.  Next post will be all about Springfield and yet another new state – Missouri!

In other news, Pat has lost the wedding ring once more, but found it when he stepped on it in the middle of the floor.  And during this super windy drive, we lost the wi-fi booster antennae.  Sounded like a billiard ball rolled off the roof and we looked at each other.  What was that?!  Pat went up on the roof at our lunch stop and confirmed the loss.  Oh well, if it isn’t one thing it’s another.  See you on the way!